09.08.09

Leahy Introduces Bill To Authorize Federal Judgeships

WASHINGTON – Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) on Tuesday introduced legislation to help reduce backlogs in the nation’s district and circuit courts by authorizing additional permanent and temporary judgeships.

Not since 1990 has Congress passed comprehensive legislation to address mounting caseloads in federal district and circuit courts across the country.  The Leahy-authored legislation includes recommendations made in May by the Judicial Conference of the United States, the policy making body of the federal courts.  The Federal Judgeship Act of 2009 would establish a total of 63 new permanent and temporary judgeships across the country, including 12 circuit judgeships.

“It has been 19 years since the last comprehensive judgeship bill was enacted to address the growth in the workload of the Federal judiciary,” said Leahy.  “Since 1990, case filings in the Federal appellate courts have increased by 42 percent, and case filings in the district courts have risen by 34 percent. The Senate has been debating a comprehensive judgeship bill for years while the Federal courts have been struggling with the overwhelming burden of heavy caseloads.  The time to enact a comprehensive Federal judgeship bill is long overdue.”

To address the increased caseloads that burden federal courts, the Federal Judgeship Act includes 13 temporary district court judgeships and three temporary circuit court judgeships, and extends one existing temporary district court judgeship, allowing Congress greater flexibility as judgeship needs change in the future.  Congress has only added a handful of district court judgeships since 1990, and no new circuit court judgeships.  The Federal Judgeship Act of 2009 will respond to near record high caseloads facing Federal judges.  In 2008, the average weighted number of case filings for district courts reached 472 per judgeship, well above the Judicial Conference’s standards.

Leahy introduced similar legislation in March 2008.  The bill received bipartisan support from more than 20 Senators, and was reported by the Senate Judiciary Committee with broad support.  Despite Leahy’s commitment to working with Republicans to advance the legislation, Republican Senators on the Judiciary Committee boycotted a June 2008 hearing at which the Judicial Conference and the U.S. Government Accountability Office were scheduled to testify.

The full text of Leahy’s statement on the introduction of the Federal Judgeship Act follows.  A list of judgeships authorized in the proposed Federal Judgeship Act also follows.

# # # # #

Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.)
Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee
On The Reintroduction Of The Federal Judgeship Act Of 2009
September 8, 2009

Today, I am reintroducing a comprehensive bill to address the resource needs of the Federal judiciary by authorizing additional courts of appeals and district court judgeships.  This good government bill will improve the effectiveness of our Federal courts and provide Federal judges with the tools to promptly render the justice that Americans so desperately need.
 
The Federal Judgeship Act of 2009 establishes 12 new judgeships in six courts of appeals and 51 new judgeships in 25 district courts across the country.  The legislation I introduce today is based on the recommendations of the Judicial Conference of the United States, which identified the judiciary’s resource needs during the completion of its biennial survey in March.
 
Last Congress, I joined Senator Hatch and 20 other Senators from both sides of the aisle to introduce this legislation.  A bipartisan majority of the Judiciary Committee voted to report the bill to the Senate last year.  Unfortunately, the Senate did not act on the bill before the end of the last Congress.
 
We used to consider judgeship bills at six year intervals.  It has been 19 years since the last comprehensive judgeship bill was enacted to address the growth in the workload of the Federal judiciary.  That legislation established 11 additional circuit court judgeships, as well as 61 permanent and 13 temporary district court judgeships.  Since 1990, case filings in the Federal appellate courts have increased by 42 percent, and case filings in the district courts have risen by 34 percent.  Congress has authorized only a few additional district court judgeships and extended a few temporary judgeships.  We should pass a comprehensive judgeship bill in this Congress that will ease the strain of heavy caseloads that has burdened the courts and thwarted the administration of justice.
 
 Last year, the weighted number of filings in district courts, which takes into account an assessment of case complexity, was 472 per judgeship.  This figure is well above the Judicial Conference’s standard of 430 weighted filings per district court judgeship.  In the 25 district courts that would receive additional judgeships under this bill, the weighted filings averaged 573 per judgeship, and 10 courts had caseloads near or above 600 weighted filings per judgeship.  Today, the national average circuit court caseload per three-judge panel has reached 1,104 filings.  That statistic approaches the record number of 1,230 cases recorded in 2005 and far exceeds the 773 average circuit court caseload filings recorded in 1991.
 
Federal judges are working harder than ever, but in order to maintain the integrity of the Federal courts and the promptness that justice demands, judges must have a manageable workload.  To address the excessive caseloads that burden Federal courts, the Federal Judgeship Act of 2009 would add nine permanent circuit court judgeships, 38 permanent district court judgeships, and convert five existing temporary judgeships into permanent positions.  These additional judgeships would help to alleviate the significant increase in caseloads that the Federal courts have seen over the nearly two decades since the last comprehensive judgeship bill was enacted.  
 
The bill would also add 13 temporary district court judgeships, three temporary circuit court judgeships, and would extend one existing temporary district court judgeship.  These additional temporary judgeships will allow Congress some flexibility with regard to future judgeship needs.  If caseloads continue to increase, Congress has the option to introduce legislation making permanent or renewing these temporary judgeships.  If those caseloads do not increase, when the next judge in that circuit or district retires they will not be replaced.
 
After years of debate and Federal courts struggling to adjudicate cases despite the overwhelming burden of heavy caseloads, the time to enact a comprehensive Federal judgeship bill is long overdue.
 
The ability of Federal courts to effectively administer justice will continue to be challenged unless adequate resources are provided.  The Federal Judgeship Act of 2009 responds to the increasing workload of the Federal judiciary, and it is long overdue.  I thank Senators Feinstein, Schumer, Whitehouse, Klobuchar, Kaufman, Franken, Harkin, Bingaman, Murray, Brown, Bayh, Bennet, Boxer, Shaheen, Inouye, Akaka, and Kerry for their support.  I urge Senators on both sides of the aisle to give this legislation their serious consideration and support.
I ask unanimous consent that a copy of the bill be printed in the record.

# # # # #

Breakdown Of Judgeships In The Federal Judgeship Act

Circuit Courts (Permanent) – 9 total
First Circuit – 1
Second Circuit – 2
Third Circuit – 1
Sixth Circuit – 1
Ninth Circuit – 4

Circuit Courts (Temporary) – 3 total
Third Circuit – 1
Eighth Circuit – 1
Ninth Circuit – 1

District Courts (Permanent) – 38 total
Arizona – 1
California – 12
            Northern District – 4
            Eastern District – 4
            Central District – 4
Colorado – 1
Florida – 7
            Middle District – 4
            Southern District – 3
Indiana (Southern District) – 1
Minnesota – 1
New Jersey – 1
New Mexico – 1
New York – 3
            Southern District – 1
            Eastern District – 1
            Western District – 1
Oregon – 1
South Carolina – 1
Texas – 7
            Eastern District – 1
            Southern District – 2
            Western District – 4
Washington (Western District) – 1

District Courts (Temporary) – 13 total
Alabama (Middle District) – 1
Arizona – 1
California – 3
            Northern District – 1
            Eastern District – 1
            Central District – 1
Florida (Middle District) – 1
Idaho – 1
Iowa (Northern District) – 1
Minnesota – 1
Nebraska – 1
New York – 2
            Southern District – 1
            Eastern District – 1
Virginia (Eastern District) – 1

Temporary Judgeships Made Permanent (5 total)
Arizona – 1
Kansas – 1
Missouri (Eastern District) – 1
New Mexico – 1
Texas (Eastern District) – 1

Extended Existing Temporary Judgeships (1 total)

Ohio (Northern District) – 1

# # # # #

Press Contact

David Carle: 202-224-3693